Critics, supporters square off over drones being tested in Oklahoma

Posted on: 2:49 pm, December 16, 2013, by , updated on: 03:26am, December 17, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was that record-breaking, round-the-world flight Wiley Post made in the 1930s that set the stage for Oklahoma’s legacy in aviation and aerospace.

If the state has its way, it will become one of only six drone testing sites in the country.

Dr. Jamey Jacob, a professor at OSU, said, “If you look at Oklahoma’s top three industries; aerospace being one of them, the other two are agriculture and oil and gas. Then unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have the potential to impact all three of those.”

The FAA plans to select its testing sites as early as the end of December, and if selected, Jacob says drones will help farmers locate livestock, better monitor natural disasters and alert authorities faster to issues like gas leaks.

However, not everyone is excited about the testing program.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of ACLU Oklahoma, said, “We’re very close to a point where the government could have constant surveillance and tracking of an individual’s movement without ever having any suspicion of a crime being committed.”

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft is seeking a measure that would limit the use of drones to survey citizens while also preventing weapon use, a step the ACLU thinks is a step in the right direction.

Kiesel said, “We have to reconcile all of the benefits those drones can provide with the very real danger they pose to Oklahomans’ privacy.”

Governor Mary Fallin says she believes drones will help job growth in the state and plans on doing everything she can to protect privacy and security of Oklahoma citizens.